Europe and Central Asia
20 Sep 2018

A sky of wonders – The 9th Sagres Festival of Birdwatching

By Sonia Neves

From 4-7 October, birds and birders alike will flock to Sagres in southern Portugal for its internationally renowned Festival of Birdwatching & Nature Activities. This year, the Bonelli’s Eagle promises to be the star of the show.

In October, Sagres has it all. Bonelli's and Short-Toed Snake Eagles, Griffon and Egyptian Vultures, White and Black Storks…soaring birds circle in their thousands, searching for a passage to Africa. Astounding numbers of seabirds fly by, on epic journeys that can take them from pole to pole. Pipits, Sylvia Warblers, Northern Wheatears and dozens of other songbirds also cross the Sagres peninsula, at the very southern tip of Portugal, on their way south. And just when you least expect it, a true rarity appears before your very eyes –  a Yellow-Browed Warbler, a Red-breasted Flycatcher or even a Lesser Spotted Eagle.

Sagres, Portugal © SPEA/Joana Domingues

As the sky fills with winged wonders, down below, from 4-7 October, the small town of Sagres welcomes nature-lovers from near and far, flocking in their hundreds for its annual Birdwatching and Nature Activities Festival. From birdwatching tours on land and sea to wildlife photography courses and trips, visitors are spoilt for choice with 200 different activities on offer, of which half are free. One of this year’s highlights will certainly be Magnus Robb’s introduction to the wonderful world of bird songs and calls, where keen birdwatchers will (briefly) put down their binoculars and let their ears guide them.

visitors are spoilt for choice with 200 different activities on offer, of which half are free

The festival has something for everyone - there’s plenty for birdwatchers’ families and nature-lovers too, from whale- and dolphin-spotting trips to craft stalls and bird mask-making workshops.

© SPEA/Joana Domingues

The star of the show is undoubtedly the Bonelli’s Eagle Aquila fasciata, SPEA’s Bird of the Year 2018. Endangered in Portugal, following a steep decline since the 1980s, this large bird of prey’s population finally appears to be increasing. Although the species is still dwindling in the north of Portugal (where the Life Rupis project, coordinated by SPEA, is working to preserve the species), in the South it is expanding its range. This is largely due to its adopting new behaviour here – instead of nesting in cliffs like their counterparts across the rest of the Iberian Peninsula, many Bonelli’s Eagles in southern Portugal are nesting in large trees. Unfortunately, this change does have a downside, leaving the eagles more vulnerable to forest fires like the one that devastated the north of the Algarve this summer.


Sonia Neves – Communications Officer, SPEA (BirdLife Portugal)

For programme, registration and more information (including discounted places to stay and eat):

Now in its ninth year, the Sagres Festival is organized by Câmara Municipal de Vila do Bispo (the local town hall) in collaboration with Associação Almargem and the Portuguese Society for the Study of Birds (SPEA), BirdLife’s partner in Portugal.


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